Bob Herbert Interview with Barry LePatner on CUNY TV: Barry LePatner on the Polarization of Our Nation

Last nite, my interview with Bob Herbert, former columnist of the NYTimes aired on CUNY TV. Bob last interviewed me a year ago to assess the nation’s infrastructure scene and we held a wide ranging discussion about the perilous state of our roads, bridges, dams and other critical facilities.

This year Bob asked me to again appear on his program and we talked about a wide range of topics addressing the how and why our political world is so polarized and what that means for the near and far time future. As Bob stated in his introduction:

“America was once the envy of the world in terms of our standard of living; our vast, high-quality transportation networks; our unparalleled systems of public and higher education; and our commitment to freedom and democracy. It didn’t matter whether Democrats or Republicans were in power, there were norms and principles and ideals to which nearly all of us subscribed. That all seems a long time ago. What happened? How did it happen? And where are we now headed? I talk about this with my guest, Barry LePatner, an expert on infrastructure and development, and a veteran analyst of power, politics and government in the United States.”

The National Transportation Safety Board and the American Society of Civil Engineers Must Begin to Demand: NO MORE FRACTURE CRITICAL BRIDGES

In 2010, while doing research for Too Big to Fall: America’s Failing Infrastructure and the Way Forward, my research led me beyond the scary fact that since 1989 over 600 bridges in our nation had failed from an engineering standpoint. At that time, the American Society of Structural Engineers was pleased to report that about 11% of all the 600,000 bridges in the nation were rated “structurally deficient”, i.e. had such serious cracks, corrosion and conditions such as frozen bearings that local authorities were instructed by the federal government to close one or more lanes to ensure these bridges could – in their weakened condition – support the weight of the vehicles traveling over them each day.

Nowhere in the literature of the ASCE or local or federal government files was any reference to the 18,000 bridges designed in the late 1960s and into the 1970s that were built as “fracture critical”. These bridges, such as the recently demised old Tappan Zee Bridge over New York State’s Hudson River, the ill-fated I-35W that ran across the Mississippi River in Minneapolis and the tragic I-5 that ran across the Skagit River in the State of Washington, were built without redundancy. In other words, from an engineering standpoint, if one member of the bridge failed for any reason the bridge lacked the normal ability to transfer loads to other supporting parts of the bridge to prevent an outright collapse.

That our federal government ever approved bridges to be designed and built without “belts and suspenders” is startling in its own right. That the government permitted these dangerous facilities which transported millions of Americans across their spans each day into the 21st Century is to invite repeated tragedy. And that is precisely what happened for the I-35W which collapsed in 2007, killing 13 people and injuring another 145; that is exactly what happened in May 2013. See,

A preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board attributed the failure to the bridge’s so-called “fracture-critical” design, whereby a small crack in just one essential part can trigger a chain reaction of even more failures. So when I secured data from a secret source within the Federal Highway Administration showing that the nation had nearly 8,000 bridges that were BOTH structurally deficient and fracture critical, I was attempting to highlight a critical failure of our federal and state leaders to address a most perilous condition in our bridge infrastructure system.

So, one can ask, how could our governmental authorities charged with building new bridge structures ever again permit engineers to design any new bridges using a fracture critical design? Hasn’t anyone learned this one lesson that without structural redundancy a failure of even one part of a bridge is a direct invitation to a collapse?

Then, this past March, we turned on our TVs only to see another unfolding of tragedy in Miami when an overpass over a crowded highway near Florida International University collapse while the prefabricated overpass was being put in place. Within hours, I was asked to give both TV and radio interviews to explain how this could happen and what the aftermath of this tragedy meant to the nation. From a review of certain plans of the bridge provided by a friendly engineer who quickly reviewed the drawings with me it became clear: this collapse was likely fostered by a potpourri of design and construction errors including one error that was unimaginable: as the installation of the overpass was being placed and contractors were tightening or loosening steel rods to address cracks that had already sent warning signals that something was amiss, how could the authorities have permitted vehicular traffic to flow beneath the overpass?

In addition, it has subsequently been determined that the overpass was designed as a fracture critical structure. Thus, when a section of the overpass no longer supported the intended weight of the bridge there were no other support members to handle the failed load to prevent a total collapse of the structure to the street below. Shades of the I-35W and I-5 bridges only recently examined as of the same ilk.

As long as the Federal government chooses to ignore the inherent perils of leaving these types of bridges to remain as structural hand grenades for an unsuspecting public to stumble upon we are exposed to dangers all across the nation. My website, shows that there are nearly 160 such dangerous bridges – each one both structurally deficient and fracture critical – in each of the 50 states.

Finally, when will the ASCE amend their Infrastructure Report Card to acknowledge these dangers? How can the engineers who design and maintain these bridges – and who are fully conversant with the dangers of every fracture critical bridge – deign to give a grade of C+ to our bridges and never mention the words “fracture critical’ in their report? ? How can they provide a glossary of terms addressing the problems of infrastructure without providing a definition and discussion of these fracture critical bridges? Maybe only having 8,000 of them is not of sufficient caliber to warrant discussion.

In ancient Greek mythology, the gods detested any time when man exhibited what they called hubris, i.e. a total lack of humility where a man took on the attitude of a god. Inevitably, the story would arouse the ire of one or more gods who sent down a messenger from the heavens to teach the man a lesson that he was human and not a god. The messenger they sent: you guessed it, Tragedy.

Cracks Where FIU Bridge Buckled May Have Signaled 'Imminent Failure'


Published May 07, 2018 04:53 PM Updated May 09, 2018 03:08 PM
By Andres Viglucci, Nicholas Nehamas and Jenny Staletovich

 Cracks were discovered in the Florida International University bridge 10 days before it was raised into the air above busy Tamiami Trail. The bridge collapsed on March 15, killing six people.  -Florida International University

Cracks were discovered in the Florida International University bridge 10 days before it was raised into the air above busy Tamiami Trail. The bridge collapsed on March 15, killing six people. -Florida International University

A key concrete support truss in the doomed Florida International University pedestrian bridge developed worrisome cracks 10 days before the structure was lifted into place over the Tamiami Trail, photographs and an internal email unintentionally released by the school show.

The documents, released in response to public records requests from the Miami Herald, show that FIU's construction and engineering team discovered potentially problematic cracks in the bridge earlier than officials have previously acknowledged.

The cracks were found in late February at the base of a diagonal support member at the north end of the span. Independent engineers have identified that as the point where the structure shattered on March 15 while under construction, sending the 950-ton bridge crashing onto the roadway below and claiming six lives.

Three independent engineers who examined the photos, records and bridge blueprints at the Herald's request concurred the cracks were a red flag signaling potentially critical structural problems. Outside experts have zeroed in on that truss member, identified in plans as No. 11, as being "under-designed" -- that is, not strong enough to withstand the pressure from the weight of the bridge it was supposed to hold up.

The location and diagonal shape of the cracks shown in the FIU team's photos support that theory, the engineers said. They said the cracks should have prompted work on the bridge to stop for an in-depth review that likely would have resulted in the truss connection being re-engineered and significantly reinforced.

"Knowing the stresses that member was under and what happened, that crack was something that in hindsight should have been investigated," said David Beck, a New Hampshire engineer who helped uncover mistakes in Boston's $10.8 billion Big Dig project.

Linwood Howell, a senior engineer at a Texas firm that specializes in bridge design and inspection, said the cracks were signs of the structure's "imminent failure."

"There's nothing they could have done short of starting over and redesigning the structure," said Howell, whose firm conducts bridge inspections for the state of Texas.

 A dashcam video shows the FIU pedestrian bridge falling on Thursday, March 15, 2018. McClatchy@o2webdev via Instagram

A dashcam video shows the FIU pedestrian bridge falling on Thursday, March 15, 2018. McClatchy@o2webdev via Instagram

A third engineer consulted by the Herald concurred with the first two but asked not to be named.

A fourth bridge engineer, Ralph Verrastro of Naples, said the cracks did not appear significant to him.

"The photos don't clearly provide any clues to me related to ultimate failure," Verrastro said in an email. "I would assume these cracks would have been repaired by epoxy injection before the bridge was moved."

Because FIU and state transportation officials continue to withhold other critical records under instructions from the National Transportation Safety Board, it's hard to say what the FIU team's response to the cracks was.

In a Feb. 28 memo, Jose Morales, a consulting engineer for FIU, notes one crack in particular "merits special attention." Morales urges that the bridge engineer of record be consulted "to provide a response." That engineer of record is W. Denney Pate of FIGG Bridge Group, which designed the bridge. The memo was sent to a project manager at Munilla Construction Management, the bridge project's builder, and copied to Alberto Delgado, a construction project manager at FIU, and other members of the project team.

NTSB, which is investigating the bridge collapse, has told FIU and the Florida Department of Transportation not to release records dated after Feb. 19, so there are no available public records to document any response from FIGG or other team members to Morales' memo. The Herald has sued to obtain subsequent records related to the bridge collapse. The bridge collapse is also the subject of a Miami-Dade police homicide investigation and families of some of the victims have filed lawsuits.

The Feb. 28 memo and the attached photos of cracking were released in error, an FIU attorney, Eric Isicoff, said Monday. After the Herald contacted FIU for comment on the cracks, Isicoff demanded reporters delete any copies of the documents from their computers.

"Any hard copies that have been made also should be destroyed," Isicoff wrote.

 Cracks such as the one pictured above may have been a sign of "imminent failure" of the Florida International University bridge that collapsed March 15, claiming six lives. Engineers had discovered the cracks days before the bridge was lifted into place.Florida International University

Cracks such as the one pictured above may have been a sign of "imminent failure" of the Florida International University bridge that collapsed March 15, claiming six lives. Engineers had discovered the cracks days before the bridge was lifted into place.Florida International University

Mark Caramanica, an attorney at Thomas & LoCicero representing the Herald in its public records requests to FIU, said the Herald has no obligation to comply.

"The Herald has a First Amendment right to publish this information, and the public has a right to know what may have led to this terrible event," he said.

The cracks documented in the Feb. 28 memo were discovered while the span was still resting on the ground, after the removal of temporary shoring that provided support while it was built by the side of the Trail.

Beck and Howell said that's potentially telling because the span at that point was resting only on a support on either end, mimicking the way it would stand once installed over the roadway. The cracks thus could have been a sign of shearing pressure -- a sideways stress -- that the No. 11 truss could not handle once under the full load it was meant to carry.

Both Beck and Howell, echoing other outside engineers who have analyzed publicly available blueprints, records, photos and videos, believe the connection between the No. 11 truss and the bridge deck -- the place where the cracking occurred -- was poorly designed, lacking sufficient steel and concrete to bear the enormous load placed on it. All the engineers emphasize that a clear-cut cause for the collapse may not be established until the NTSB publishes its conclusions, and that their analysis could change based on new information.

Ten days after the Feb. 28 memo, the bridge's main span, fabricated by the side of the road, was lifted into place by two special transporters. That means FIU's engineers and contractors had either done something to address the cracks or concluded they were not an issue, the outside engineers said.

 The FIU-Sweetwater UniversityCity Bridge collapsed on a busy road March 15, killing six people and injuring several more.  -Pedro Portal Miami Herald

The FIU-Sweetwater UniversityCity Bridge collapsed on a busy road March 15, killing six people and injuring several more. -Pedro Portal Miami Herald

Concrete cracking in construction is common, and records show FIU bridge team members were expecting some cracking as they prepared the bridge span and moved it into place.

In fact, some minor cracking was discovered even earlier, other released records show, but dismissed as inconsequential -- a conclusion the independent engineers agree with.

But three days after the bridge was lifted into place, Pate called an FDOT official to report that cracking had been found at the north end of the bridge, records released by the agency immediately after the collapse show. In a recorded phone message, Pate said the cracks did not represent a safety hazard but should be repaired. It's quite possible that the cracks Pate reported were the same ones in the photos and memo from Feb. 28, Howell said.

The cracks might have become worse after the bridge was moved and set in place, resting atop a pylon at either end. That would especially be the case if the No. 11 truss, the last diagonal piece at the north end, was beginning to fail under the full load of the bridge, he said.

 FILE from March 10, 2018: Early morning view of the main span of the FIU-Sweetwater UniversityCity Pedestrian Bridge as it was lifted from its temporary supports, rotated 90 degrees across an eight-lane thoroughfare and lowered into its permanent Pedro

FILE from March 10, 2018: Early morning view of the main span of the FIU-Sweetwater UniversityCity Pedestrian Bridge as it was lifted from its temporary supports, rotated 90 degrees across an eight-lane thoroughfare and lowered into its permanent Pedro

The cracks were discussed at a meeting of project team members the morning of the collapse, though no safety concerns were raised, FDOT said. The bridge collapsed while crews were atop the walkway's canopy, adjusting the tension on steel support rods inside the No. 11 truss member as traffic continued to flow on the open road below.

“Whether the crews were tightening or loosening the rods has not been disclosed, but could be critical in explaining the cause of the collapse. Because the truss-type design of the bridge means there is no redundant support, the failure of a single structural piece can bring the entire overpass down under its own weight, experts say.”

One early report, by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, had the crews tightening the rods in an effort to close the cracks, leading to speculation that over-tightening could have caused the truss to shatter.

But other experts, citing released bridge plans, say they were more likely loosening the rods. The rods were apparently a modification to the plans, added to the bridge design after FDOT asked FIU to move the entire bridge 11 feet north to accommodate a future lane for transit.

The move forced a change in the carefully calibrated plan for moving the bridge into place. It put the north end of the main span well off the edge of the roadway on a canal bank. Because a transport machine could not traverse that roadway edge, the point where it would lift the structure was moved toward the center of the bridge. That means the end would sag when lifted. To prevent that, the rods were added to provide extra compressive support.

The rods were tightened before the bridge was lifted off the ground. The plans called for them to be loosened after the bridge was in place because that extra compression was no longer needed. That's the operation some experts believe was underway when the bridge plummeted to the ground.

 Pictured is the blue SUV driven by 18-year-old Florida International University student Alexa Duran when she was killed by a 174-foot walkway being constructed near FIU during a bridge collapse on March 15, 2018. Richard ‘Richie’ Humble, a 19-year-old FIU student who escaped the vehicle alive, filed a civil lawsuit claiming the firms involved in the bridge’s construction acted negligently and should have re-routed traffic. - Sebastian Ballestas

Pictured is the blue SUV driven by 18-year-old Florida International University student Alexa Duran when she was killed by a 174-foot walkway being constructed near FIU during a bridge collapse on March 15, 2018. Richard ‘Richie’ Humble, a 19-year-old FIU student who escaped the vehicle alive, filed a civil lawsuit claiming the firms involved in the bridge’s construction acted negligently and should have re-routed traffic. -Sebastian Ballestas

The cracks in the Feb. 28 document were discovered after the rods were tightened, or stressed, in preparation for the lift. In the accompanying memo, Morales, an engineer with FIU consultant Bolton Perez & Associates, asked MCM and Pate to "determine if these were expected during the bridge stressing," and singled out one crack that "due to the size" needed "special attention."

Citing the cracks and his own calculations showing that the No. 11 truss was crushingly overstressed, Howell speculated that either operation -- tightening or loosening -- could have been enough to shatter the connection.

"Since it was right on the brink of failure, anytime you disturb it -- boom -- it goes," Howell said. "It just needed a little push to go over the edge."

A sufficiently attentive engineer, knowing what kind of load the No. 11 member was supposed to carry, should have exercised great caution and ordered a thorough review, preferably by an independent engineer not involved in the project to ensure objectivity, Howell said.

Given the bridge was moved into place soon after and subsequently fell, he assumes that did not happen.

"The cracks are telling them that the connection is failing, but they're not seeing it," Howell said. "When it's your design, you rationalize your way around it."

 Aerial footage shows what the scene at the FIU pedestrian bridge collapse looks like the morning after on March 16, 2018.  -Pedro Portal Miami Herald

Aerial footage shows what the scene at the FIU pedestrian bridge collapse looks like the morning after on March 16, 2018. -Pedro Portal Miami Herald

Seeking a line between government's right to retain information (it deems secret) and those times that transparency is what is best for its citizens

We all can agree that there are secrets best kept by government from the public for a multitude of reasons. For one thing, we will all agree that issues affecting national security, such as secret weapons, tactics to be used in the event of attack on our shores, etc., must be given protection from our enemies who could use that information to our detriment. There are incidents in our history, such as the full investigation into who killed John F. Kennedy which arguably, if they contain sensitive information, could fall into that category that the public is best not given the full and true picture.

However, I am not sure about total secrecy on such issues as whether we have aliens from another planet amidst us should be kept secret, but after several viewings of Men in Black and learning that some very famous people on the planet may well be amongst that non-human species, I can understand why facts about UFOs could be validly withheld from general knowledge.

But when it comes to facts about our infrastructure and the potentially perilous conditions of our bridges, roads, dams and electric grid I have gained too much information as a result of authoring “Too Big to Fall: America’s Failing Infrastructure and the Way Forward” to allow any claim by government that withholding such information from the public is a good thing. So this recent article authored by a very respected journalist identifies the spurious efforts of the New Jersey Transit folks to disclose information on which rail bridges may be in critical need of attention has brought this issue to the forefront. I wish to share my concern with each of you.

 A NJ Transit passenger train passes over the train bridge at the Garfield Train Station

A NJ Transit passenger train passes over the train bridge at the Garfield Train Station

“Tens of thousands of NJ Transit commuters cross them on trains every day. But the statewide public transportation agency, which maintains hundreds of rail bridges, won't share any information with the public that would reveal whether they're safe or not.”

It seems that the journalist, Curtis Tate, who has written extensively on infrastructure issues for many years, sought to identify whether the NJ Transit officials have categorized railway bridges under its jurisdiction and showing signs of excessive corrosion and wear and tear associated with other structurally deficient bridges around the nation, was rebuffed repeatedly by the authorities. When he finally asked why they would not furnish the condition reports in their files that would validate serious concern for the bridges these railroads use for the travelling public, Tate was summarily told that:

"NJ Transit is in possession of documents containing information which, if disclosed, would jeopardize the safety and security of NJ Transit bridges," the denial letter said.

A further request to the NJ Attorney General’s office got a similar refusal and the statement that the documents "contain sensitive technical...information regarding the structural integrity of nearly six hundred bridges" maintained by the agency. Think about that: although New Jersey has hundreds, if not thousands of the nation’s approximately 55,000 structurally deficient bridges and these are widely known to the general public who seek this information, learning which rail bridges are in danger of collapse, bridges that carry a million passengers a year, is a secret only to be shared by those with Top Secret clearances.

When Curtis spoke with me for his article I pointed out that on the fifth anniversary of the collapse on August 1, 2007 of the I-35W in Minneapolis which killed 13 people and injured another 145, I published a Google map at that permitted every citizen who entered a zip code to see all the structurally deficient\fracture critical bridges (those in danger of imminent collapse) in that area. This website has been quoted publicly on many of the TV and radio stations with whom I have interviewed over the past ten years AND NO GOVERNMENTAL AUTHORITY HAS EVER ASKED ME TO TAKE IT DOWN for any reason, let alone national security reasons. Why then, I asked, could any transportation agency seek to preclude this acknowledgement of pending disaster from the questioning press or the public whom it serves?

We truly deserve better from our public officials. I hope that journalists such as Curtis Tate continue that fight. I hope he convinces his publishers to take this battle to court as an affront to our first amendment rights. And I hope that one day, the sunlight of transparency will shine brightly on our state and federal government leaders who, for the past four decades, have failed to exhibit the political will and the political leadership to make repairs to our imperiled infrastructure a primary mission before further disasters occur. I hope we all win that ultimate victory.

As always, please let me have your thoughts and ideas in response to this issue.

Construction Corruption in NYC


Throughout my forty year career in the design and construction community I have been called upon often by owners how best to address the 900 lb. gorilla that hovers over the industry: the existence and persistence of corruption in how buildings are designed and constructed.

Make no mistake about the nature of the problem. There have been regular reports that corruption is not solely limited to the construction world’s tendency among some to hide the true cost of construction; to create two sets of books for a project and make sure the owner only sees the set with higher costs; and the use of many workers who are shown as needed for a project who are, in fact, no-shows and reap unwarranted profits for construction executives.

But the problem often extends to complicit architects, interior designers, commercial real estate brokers and project managers all have been caught up by prosecutors in New York City for their roles in leading to bilking corporations, institutions and developers — as well as private owners — of hundreds of millions of dollars.

The article, "The anatomy of construction corruption: How bribery and overbilling schemes have become commonplace in the world of real estate’s middlemen", that recently appeared in The Real Deal, and which liberally quoted me on the subject, highlights the latest round up of contractors who were prosecuted for such heinous behavior. []. Ultimately, we find that fines and penalties are imposed to recoup the monies wrongfully taken from their clients. Occasionally, a few executives of these companies are jailed. But, curiously, most of the largest culprits have paid their fines only to see their businesses continue to grow and prosper and treat their wrongdoing as a cost of doing business.

Inevitably, if our city, state and federal governments want to eliminate this kind of behavior our officials will need to become more serious about ending this type of unacceptable behavior. Setting boundaries going forward should include automatic jail sentences for those within each company who play a role in the setting of these payments and subcontractors who are complicit must also be penalized.

Finally, there should be one, two or five year suspensions of the licenses given to contractors to conduct business to emphasize the seriousness of this type of behavior. That will send the true level of the message we need to end this kind of virulent behavior for all time.

As always, please let me have your comments.

Trump’s infrastructure plan is “dead on arrival”: Barry LePatner

Following the recent derailment of an Amtrak commuter train north of Seattle, the producers of MSNBC reached out to me and asked me to join Ali Velshi and Stephanie Ruhle to discuss this disaster and the subject of our nation’s infrastructure. The five minute interview is shown by clicking on the image above.

MSNBC has highlighted the interview by citing my statement that the soon to be revealed Trump infrastructure plan is “dead on arrival”. I believe there will be little likelihood that the members of Congress can support a plan to improve our perilous infrastructure by adding $200 billion more to the nation’s deficit which just experienced an increase in the national debt of $1.5 trillion from the newly-passed tax plan of the GOP. Moreover, the infrastructure plan is heavily weighted to require states to make up a large portion of the $800 billion to be raised by outside equity and state contributions. This would only be possible by increases in state taxes – taxes that are not always deductible by its citizens under the new tax law.

For those of you who wrote about not receiving the video of my recent interview with Bob Herbert, former op-ed columnist for the NYTimes as shown on CUNY-TV, here is the link of that discussion about our nation’s infrastructure.

Please share your comments and let me extend my warmest wishes to all for the upcoming holidays and the New Year

Taxing the American Dream

What does it mean when the best of our next and future generations will be deprived of gaining a hope for securing a masters degree or going for an advanced science degree or seeking a medical school education which will be much needed skills in the years ahead?

The American education system has been the gold standard for training our – and the world’s – future leaders in science, government, teaching and a host of other fields that are central to maintaining our exceptionalism. However, the new tax legislation under final consideration by the U.S. Congress appears to be a direct assault on any hopes of keeping that reputation alive for the future.

In his recent article for Medium, Graham Glusman of Columbia University notes that “college access has expanded dramatically in the past 75 years, enabling students from middle and low-income families to attend college.

This has largely been the result of federal programs and scholarships that were designed to do just that, such as the Pell Grant. In 1976, there were 1.9 million Pell Grant recipients, receiving $6.2 billion worth of financial aid. In 2012, that number had increased to 9.4 million recipients, who received nearly $40 billion in aid. As a result of heightened accessibility, the United States is one of the most educated countries in the world, which has had a reciprocal effect on Americans’ incomes and on the economy at large. On average, people with a bachelor’s degree make 66 percent more than those without them.”

The current tax proposal before Congress represents an assault on securing greater accessibility for undergrads. Worse, it is an outright effort to make it nearly impossible for graduate students from lower and middle income families from seeking advanced degrees – masters, doctoral and professional – by taxing their tuition waivers. Consider the following example cited in the article:

“if a student seeking a medical degree and making $2,000 a year part time at a coffee shop also received $30,000 a year from a university to help with tuition, that student’s taxable income would be $32,000. The absurdity of the proposal is that a student, who presumably takes on a job to help pay for basic necessities like food, heating, and rent, would have to pay taxes as if their earned income were 16 times higher than it actually is."

“In 2017, the federal tax on $32,000 was $2,763.75, more money than the student actually made at the coffee shop in the first place. What makes this plan so nonsensical is that the student never actually sees the $30,000 waiver; it is immediately deducted from their tuition, the rest of which they are still required to pay. So not only would students who received such waivers be in immediate debt simply for attending graduate programs, they would still have to pay the rest of the tuition that their waiver didn’t cover.”

What is the purpose of tax legislation that is punitive to those trying to gain a brighter future for themselves through education? What does it mean when the best of our next and future generations will be deprived of gaining a hope for securing a masters degree or going for an advanced science degree or seeking a medical school education which will be much needed skills in the years ahead?

Is this the kind of country that America should hold itself out as offering to its citizens? Do the voters even understand that their children and grandchildren’s opportunities have been frustrated by tax legislation that makes it near impossible for them to secure what used to be an inalienable right for all?

Please let me have your comments on this latest development. More importantly, reach out and let your Congressperson know that this is downright foolish as well as unfair.

Barry LePatner Discusses Our Failing Infrastructure with Bob Herbert of Op-Ed.TV

In case you were pulled in other directions the other evening, I thought I would send to you a link of my interview with Bob Herbert that aired Tuesday night on CUNY-TV. The discussion covered a broad range of infrastructure topics that I know you will find of interest.

Please share with me your comments and, most importantly, I hope each of you enjoys a heartwarming Thanksgiving.

Barry LePatner Interview with Bob Herbert on Infrastructure on CUNY-TV


There are members of the media who one meets at interviews for press, radio and TV. Many of these individuals are consummate professionals who have developed their craft as journalists over the course of their careers. Only a few rise to the level of being at the top of their field based on their wide range of experience and most importantly, who bring a critical level of empathy to the wide range of subjects they cover.

Bob Herbert joined The New York Times as an Op-Ed columnist in 1993. His twice a week column covered politics, urban affairs and social trends. He began his career as a reporter with The Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J., in 1970. He became its night city editor in 1973. Over his career Bob won numerous awards, including the Meyer Berger Award for coverage of New York City and the American Society of Newspaper Editors award for distinguished newspaper writing. He was chairman of the Pulitzer Prize jury for spot news reporting in 1993.

Maybe I have had a special affinity for Bob because we share the distinct honor of both having been born in Brooklyn. Whereas I attended Brooklyn College, he has taught journalism at Brooklyn College as well as the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He currently writes for the Demos blog PolicyShop as well as The American Prospect magazine, which merged with Demos in 2010.

In 2014, Bob published, Losing Our Way: An Intimate Portrait of a Troubled America and I was honored to have been interviewed for the section he wrote on our failing infrastructure which detailed the cost to our nation for our failure to address this important sector of our nation’s history.

So, when Bob asked me recently to appear on his TV program, Bob Herbert’s Op-Ed.TV for CUNY-TV, I was excited to join him in a wide ranging interview on how our nation’s infrastructure has reached the critical juncture it now finds itself and where our nation must go if we are to address the sad state of our roads, bridges, power grid, dams and water supply in a constructive fashion.

You can see the premier of the upcoming interview will air on CUNY TV on the following dates:

Premieres on Monday, November 20 at 8:30pm

Repeats on:

  • Wednesday, November 22 - 11:30pm
  • Saturday, November 25 - 3:00pm
  • Sunday, November 26 - 9:30am
  • Monday, November 27 - 9:30am, 3:30pm
  • Saturday, December 2 - 3:00pm
  • Monday, December 4 - 9:30am, 3:30pm

CUNY TV is cablecast in New York City on Ch. 75 (Spectrum and Cablevision), Ch. 77 (RCN), and Ch. 30 (Verizon). CUNY TV is also digitally broadcast on Channel 25.3, reaching the New York metropolitan area.

After its television premiere, the episode will be posted on the show’s webpage at this link: I believe you will find our discussion to cover a broad perspective on this important subject and let you see why Bob Herbert is such an exceptional interviewer who deserves our attention.

Getting Older While Staying Young

It is inevitable that, as we grow older, we begin to focus our attention on the difference between one’s latter years and those that formed the first decades of our life. This distinction is one that comes to us slowly; there is no cathartic moment, no revelation that seemingly comes from the heavens to alert each of us to the onset of old age.

To think of one’s aging is to begin a new journey in one’s life. It should not be the presaging of the beginning of the end of life. For to think in such a pessimistic fashion is to fail to open ourselves to the many benefits to be derived from the experiences of our earlier years, to reflect on how we can best craft those experiences into a decade or two or four that can be the most fruitful times of our lives.

So it was with great pleasure that I came to read this summer the beautifully wrtiten book by the late Sherwin B. Nuland, The Art of Aging: A Doctor’s Prescription for Well-Being. Nuland wrote this book in 2007, some 17 years after he wrote “How We Die,” which won the National Book Award for nonfiction in 1994 and which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in nonfiction in 1995, having sold more than 500,000 copies worldwide. In its concluding chapter, Dr. Nuland confessed that he, like many of his readers, desired a death without suffering “surrounded by the people and the things I love,” though he hastened to add that his odds were slim. This brought him to a final question.

“And so, if the classic image of dying with dignity must be modified or even discarded,” he wrote, “what is to be salvaged of our hope for the final memories we leave to those who love us? The dignity we seek in dying must be found in the dignity with which we have lived our lives.”

In “The Art of Aging” Nuland writes elegaically about how we must dedicate ourselves to accepting the onset of aging and not struggle to fight the contrasts between how our body and mind addresses growing older. He notes that "The rivalry within ourselves reflects a rivalry with youth, and it serves neither youth nor age at all well. Successful aging is about successfully adapting which brings the greater opportunity for far greater tensions and for brightening the later decades with a light not yet visible to the young,” it is the acknowledgement that aging is a gift that creates new boundaries in our lives. "Everything within those boundaries becomes more precious than it was before: love, learning, family, work, health and even the lessened time itself.”

His advice to us is to accept the wisdom that comes with age. Even if we did not attain wisdom at an earlier age, we can now begin a new journey that will bring us (1) a sense of mutual caring and connectedness with others; (2) the maintenance, insofar as we can influence it by own actions, of the physical capability of our bodies; and (3) creativity. Each of the three requires work; each of the three brings immense rewards.

I took several pages of notes from the book as they portrayed to me ratification of some of the principles I have adopted for my own onset of the aging process. My focused attention on staying in excellent help by investing in time in a gym doing workouts with weights to my time on a tennis court playing singles against others sometimes decades younger than myself was addressed by Nuland who cites Dr. Michael deBakey, inventor of the heart replacement operation who was performing these delicate operations at age 94. Nuland notes that "Planned, vigorous exercise is a far better anti-aging treatment than all the elixirs, creams, lotions, potions, and cosmetic surgery in the world.”

It was especially soothing to have Nuland point out that If there’s a Holy Grail, it’s our relationships with other people. For each older man and woman, "each needs to maintain a significant role as a distinctive individual within his or her familial and social encirclement – to have purpose, to have value, to have dignity – not only self-perception but in fact as well.” For, as he points out with examples, "Whatever else aging may represent to us, it is first and foremost a state of mind."

Finally, Nuland discusses the need to separate ourselves from our careers. As we age, we just cannot continue to identify who we are by what we did for a living. Our unique personality is what defines us not our chosen path of career. "So long as we are actively engaged in career, we must abide more or less strictly to the boundaries imposed by it. But *once we begin to separate ourselves, we bit by bit become freer to continue maturing in ways distinctive to ourselves. By such means, age becomes a liberator. The better we have used our years, the greater will be the rewards of individuality and accrued wisdom."

As friends and colleagues, I hope that you find the peace of mind to accept that growing older is mostly a state of mind and part of the exciting journey of our lives that is as important as all that came before…. if not more so.

Can Failing Infrastructure Be Bad For Your Health?

THE STREAM ALJAZEERA Tuesday, 5 Sept 2017 | 3:30 PM ET

Barry LePatner appeared on “The Stream” a live interview program put out to over 250 million households across the world by Aljazeera. Joining in on the discussion was a quite interesting group of knowledgeable participants including: Tom Smith, Executive Director, American Society of Civil Engineers, John Nichols, Author, "Horsemen of the Trumpocalypse” and Political correspondent, The Nation Magazine and Tanvi Misra, Staff writer, CityLab. The conversation addressed the state of the U.S. infrastructure and the prospects for remediating this troubled sector of our nation.

Barry LePatner is the Keynote Speaker at the Construction Industry Institute's Annual Conference

In my book on the inefficiencies of the construction industry, "Broken Buildings, Busted Budgets," I noted that the industry is the lowest spender per employee on technology to improve productivity. I said that insofar as advanced technology use in the construction world is concerned, the industry is in the first inning of a long awaited need to bring this $1 trillion a year sector of the U.S. economy into the 21st Century.

If anything, several new developments have triggered sufficient progress within the industry over the past few years to indicate that the construction world has incrementally moved forward into integrating new technology into the design\construction processes so integral in building our future societal needs.

Click here to see the speech, "A Brave New World: Who will survive when new technologies re-shape the A/E/C industry?" from the keynote speech I presented in Boston at the 2015 Construction Industr][2]y Institute last August. As you will see, it is a thought provoking presentation and evidences why new technology will be shaking up the hide bound industry within the next ten years.

I am proud that this speech received such a warm reception from the CII executives who attended. I know you will find it thought provoking and worth your time.

Barry LePatner is interviewed on CNBC to discuss our nation's infrastructure in light of the failed dam in Orreville, CA.

Barry LePatner was interviewed on CNBC by the four hosts of the daily business TV program, “Power Lunch" to discuss the state of our nation’s infrastructure and the news surrounding the failed dam in Orreville, California.

The hosts were very savvy on the subject and most interested when he urged the need for an “infrastructure Czar” to break thru the morass of the logjam created by the US Congress for the past several decades.

Mr. LePatner believes there remains substantial congressional logjams that will mitigate against the full onslaught of pushing through a comprehensive infrastructure program over the next few years. While we should remain hopeful, as this was a strong issue for President Trump, the hurdles his administration will face in trying to effect such a program will be substantial.

Reclaiming the Architect's Authority

January 24, 2011

Alexander Tuttle, a Partner with LePatner & Associates, recently wrote an article for distribution among friends and colleagues. In the article, entitled "Reclaiming the Architect's Authority," Mr. Tuttle discusses how architects' authority over construction projects have eroded in the last 40 years and advocates recapturing their role as "Master Builder". Currently, construction managers run unchecked on projects. Invariable delays occur, which lead to construction cost overruns.

Mr. Tuttle considers how implementing a fixed price construction process through up-front project planning, complete and coordinated construction documents and more extensive architectural project oversight will carve a new landscape in the industry -- reclaiming architects' authority. Consider, for example, if architects could stand behind complete and coordinate design documents? If architects could restore owner control over the project budgets? And if, when the design documents were completed, the owner secured an independent cost estimate that would define the parameters of the costs to be anticipated by the contractor bidders? This is the essence of the LePatner C3™ Methodolgy.

Mr. Tuttle concludes that the construction industry is ripe for change. And change will only emerge through construction cost certainty and architects reclaiming their role as efficient and effective intermediaries. We hope you find this article interesting.

Barry LePatner weighs in on the state of New York City's bridges in the New York Times video series "Living City."

In the New York Times’ new six-part “Living City” series, Barry LePatner weighs in on the state of New York City’s bridges and offers commentary on the renovation of the Brooklyn Bridge and the handling of infrastructure in New York City. “Living City: A Tale of Two Bridges” presents a brief history of New York City’s bridges and compares the decision to replace the Tappan Zee Bridge with the decision to repair the iconic Brooklyn Bridge. Click here to take you to the video.

Barry LePatner is featured in NY Times "Living City | A Tale of Two Bridges"

Sep. 18, 2014

With thousands of bridges in New York State deemed structurally deficient, there are two choices: repair or rebuild. The 60-year-old Tappan Zee Bridge and the Brooklyn Bridge are the latest examples. In this video from the New York Times’ six-part “Living City” series, Barry LePatner weighs in on the state of New York City’s bridges and offers commentary on the renovation of the Brooklyn Bridge and the handling of infrastructure in New York City. “Living City: A Tale of Two Bridges” presents a brief history of New York City’s bridges and compares the decision to replace the Tappan Zee Bridge with the decision to repair the iconic Brooklyn Bridge.

Under Scrutiny, States Trim List of Bad Bridges

Oh, if only we could just say it is true and have it become so. Here is yet another blatant attempt by the American Society of Civil Engineers to sugarcoat the serious problems with our nation’s bridge infrastructure. It is bad enough that the ASCE consistently issues an Infrastructure Report Card giving our ailing bridges a “C+” every few years. This totally ignores the fact that we have nearly 8,000 bridges that are both structurally deficient and fracture critical, meaning they can collapse – just as the )-35W in Minnesota and the I-5 over the Skagit River in Washington did in recent years – posing a deadly threat to the traveling public. Not to mention that 140,000 vehicles every day travel 3.5 miles over the Tappan Zee Bridge (which has to wait a few more years for a replacement), which gives boaters under the bridge a chance to look up and see skylight seeping thru the failing substructure. Please see my comment at the end of the ASCE-generated article. We will need to continue to “hold our collective breaths” until either further unwarranted tragedy occurs or Congress begins to see the proverbial light to enhanced funding.

LePatner Interviewed on 20/20

March 18, 2013

Barry LePatner was interviewed on 20/20 this past Friday night on its segment covering "America's Most Dangerous Bridges." Citing research from his book, Too Big To Fall on the perilous state of our nation's infrastructure, LePatner advocated more dedicated funds be allocated toward repair and maintenance, especially for the more than 8,000 structurally deficient and fracture critical bridges across the country. You can see all of them at

And stay off the Tappan Zee!

 Barry LePatner being interviewed in LePatner's offices by 20/20 correspondent, Deborah Roberts.

Barry LePatner being interviewed in LePatner's offices by 20/20 correspondent, Deborah Roberts.

LePatner appearing on 20/20 Fri Mar 15 at 10pm

I thought that interest in the nation’s infrastructure plight would fall off drastically within a few days of President Obama’s State of the Union address in mid-January where he alluded to the need for more investment to improve the “72,000 structurally deficient bridges” across our nation. Yes, there were the interviews I gave to BBC-TV and appearances on CNBC’s First Business, along with radio and newspaper quotes over the next week or two. But I then expected the nation would quickly return to the sequester fun that the US Congress is having, the novelty of a Pope resigning for the first time in 700 years, or the burning issue as to whether the 100 magazines that pictured Taylor Swift on their covers in 2012 ever saw even the tiniest bump in circulation from putting her on the cover as opposed to Angelina Jolie or Jessica whoever (in fact, there was not the slightest bump up for sad Taylor).

So I was somewhat surprised to hear directly from a producer for ABC-TV’s highly acclaimed 20/20 that they wanted to come over and do an interview on infrastructure for their show this Friday night. It was only early on Monday morning of this week that the producers mentioned that the interview would be done by Deborah Roberts, who appeared several hours later all prepared to discuss the fragility of our nation’s bridges and just how we got ourselves into this sorry state of affairs. Within two hours, 20/20's crew literally set up an interview studio in the rear section of our offices using hundreds of feet of cabling, lots of hot lights and cameras galore.

As the interview proceeded it was apparent that Ms. Roberts began to grasp the enormity of the crisis blurting out, “so, it’s not about if these 8,000 structurally deficient bridges that are also fracture critical bridges are going to fall someday, … it’s …" and she left off in a rather theatrical way, nodding for me to finish the sentence…."it’s just a matter of when since every engineer associated with bridge design and maintenance understands that gravity always wins.”

The full interview will be shown this coming Friday on 20/20 at 10 PM EDT. Tune in and let me know if I made a persuasive case for one of our nation’s most underrated subjects needing immediate attention.

-Barry LePatner